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Hawker, Robert Stephen

HAWKER, ROBERT STEPHEN (1803-1874), English antiquary and poet, was born at Stoke Damerel, Devonshire, on the 3rd of December 1803. His father, Jacob Stephen Hawker, was at that time a doctor, but afterwards curate and vicar of Stratton, Cornwall. Robert was sent to Liskeard grammar school, and when he was about sixteen was apprenticed to a solicitor. He was soon removed to Cheltenham grammar school, and in April 1823 matriculated at Pembroke College, Oxford. In the same year he married Charlotte I'Ans, a lady much older than himself. On returning to Oxford he migrated to Magdalen Hall, where he graduated in 1828, having already won the Newdigate prize for poetry in 1827. He became vicar of Morwenstow, a village on the north Cornish coast, in 1834. Hawker described the bulk of his parishioners as a " mixed multitude of smugglers, wreckers and dissenters of various hues." He was himself a high churchman, and carried things with a high hand in his parish, but was much beloved by his people. He was a man of great originality, and numerous stories were told of his striking sayings and eccentric conduct. He was the original of Mortimer Collins's Canon Tremaine in Sweet and Twenty. His first wife died in 1863, and in 1864 he married Pauline Kuczynski, daughter of a Polish exile. He died in Plymouth on the 1jth of August 1875. Before his death he was formally received into the Roman Catholic Church, a proceeding which aroused a bitter newspaper controversy. The best of his poems is The Quest of the Sangraal: Chant the First (Exeter, 1864). Among his Cornish Ballads (1869) the most famous is on " Trelawny," the refrain of which, " And shall Trelawny die," etc., he declared to be an old Cornish saying.

See The Vicar of Morwenstow (1875; later and corrected editions, 1876 and 1886), by the Rev. S. Baring-Gould, which was severely criticized by Hawker's friend, W. Maskell, in the Athenaeum (March 26, 1876); Memorials of the late Robert Stephen Hawker (1876), by the late Dr F. G. Lee. These were superseded in 1905 by The Life and Letters of R. S. Hawker, by his son-in-law, C. E. Byles, which contains a bibliography of his works, now very valuable to collectors. See also Boase and Courtney, Bibliotheca Cornubiensis. His Poetical Works (1879) and his Prose Works (1893) were edited by J. G. Godwin. Another edition of his Poetical Works (1899) has a preface and bibliography by Alfred Wallis, and a complete edition of his poems by C. E. Byles, with the title Cornish Ballads and other Poems, appeared in 1904.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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